Britain officially went into recession today as economy shrank 1.5% in last quarter of 2008

The UK entered recession for the first time since 1991 today when it was confirmed that the economy contracted 1.5 % in the final three months of last year.

The slump follows a 0.6% decline in the previous quarter, meeting the definition of a recession as being two consecutive quarters of contraction.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics were worse than expected. The 1.5% fall in the fourth quarter was the biggest contraction since the second quarter of 1980. The city had expected a drop of 1.2%.

Construction output decreased by 1.1%, compared with a decrease of 0.2% in the previous quarter.

Over the whole of 2008, the economy grew by 0.7%, the weakest rise since 1992. Economists are predicting 2009 to see a 2.4% contraction; this would be the worst performance since the Second World War.

The United States, Japan and Germany are already in recession.